Saturday, December 20, 2008

HERE TO BE RECRUITED: Milk is certainly a fine film, with darn fine performances throughout, and by its nature, it's hard to talk about it without getting political, but three points that in my view weaken the film:
  1. The film owes a significant (and acknowledged at length in the credits) debt to Oscar winning doc The Times of Harvey Milk, and already, more people have probably seen the biopic than saw the documentary. That said, the biopic doesn't add a lot that wasn't in the documentary. Sure, there's a bit about Milk's tumultous personal life and a couple of miscellaneous points here and there (some of which may be the result of dramatic license), that aren't cribbed straight from the documentary, but the film doesn't really add to what's already out there.
  2. Obviously, California's passage of Prop 8 in November is important context to how viewers react, and the film was completed before the passage of Prop 8. To the extent we now read it as a response to Prop 8, it seems misguided. It's entirely possible there would have been a substantial number of people who'd oppose Prop 6 (the 70s California prop calling for homosexuals to be fired as teachers) but support Prop 8. It all reads just a little too on-the-nose and generalized. (Though that's not the fault of the filmmakers.)
  3. The most interesting part of the film is the part that explores the relationship between Milk and his assassin, Dan White. I wish there'd been more of that and the filmmakers showed us more of White, which would have helped limit the extent to which the biopic becomes a hagiography.
It's still a very well-done and moving film, especially for those not familiar with the Milk story already, but certainly isn't dislodging Slumdog Millionaire and Tell No One from the top of my list thus far this year.
AND WHEN I SEE HOW SAD YOU ARE IT SORTA MAKES ME ... HAPPY! Having witnessed first-hand a stadium-closing NFC Championship Game loss at Veterans Stadium,** I've got to say my heart just grew three sizes watching the Baltimore Ravens close Texas Stadium tonight by running right through the Dallas defense.

In a year with so many exhilarating sports moments -- Wimbledon, the 4x100 men's freestyle relay, Bissinger v. Leitch and so many others we need to review at some point -- this is a relatively minor one, but I'm grinning ear-to-ear right now.

** Yes, the Phillies still played their season thereafter, but it was the last football game at the Vet.

ESPN - Former major league pitcher Dock Ellis dies at 63

TAKE A TRIP ONE SUMMER'S DAY/DON'T FORGET YOU HAVE TO PLAY: Dock Ellis, the journeyman pitcher who in 1970 threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid, has passed away at the age of 63. Said Ellis, "The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't." Where does that rank in the list of extraordinary single-game achievements?
MONIER? We haven't blogged about Dirty Sexy Money in a while, but hasn't this season been a disappointment? Sure, there's still been some great stuff--Glenn Fitzgerald and Donald Sutherland have both been darn fine--but story points have just become incredibly ludicrous. Dumb story calls include, but are not limited to:
  • Pretty much everything to do with the Nola Lyons plot. including her ludicrous affair with Jeremy, the Nola-Simon "who's zooming who?" plot, and the like.
  • Brian's new wife is magically cured of cancer as his previous wife and kids just disappear.
  • The decision to break up Nick and his wife and make Nick less of the "one sane man in a crazy world" than he was last season. This makes him far less of a sympathetic character.
  • Having Leticia basically disappear for much of the season--seriously, I hope Jill Clayburgh is being paid well for her few lines, and I don't think she's had a single really substantive scene with Sutherland this year.
  • Certain plotlines this week at least bordered on shark jumpage--Patrick becoming a malicious murderer? Dutch George may not actually be dead?
This was a pretty damn great show last season. Too bad it's going out on a low note.
TIME FOR ANOTHER TRIP TO REHAB? In addition to whatever other addictions she's battling, The Sun reports that Amy Winehouse is addicted to UK game show Hole In The Wall and playing Rock Band.

Friday, December 19, 2008

AND HE CARRIES THE REMINDERS OF EVERY GLOVE THAT LAID HIM DOWN OR CUT HIM, 'TIL HE CRIED OUT IN HIS ANGER AND HIS SHAME: It helps to have a SAG member in the family, and especially one who travels with screeners. So thank you, Molly, for bringing The Wrestler east on this trip.

So here's the thing: Mickey Rourke? Pretty much everything you heard -- a charm and decency one can't fake, and obvious and moving parallels to his real-life woes. He does some really nice things with what he's given, and the film does an exceptional job of capturing life at the bottom of the professional wrestling world. The physical universe of this film feels deeply authentic.

What Rourke's given, unfortunately, is a thuddingly obvious melodrama, with anvil-laden speeches that make sure you never miss the point. I mean, really, did he need to say to his estranged daughter, “Now I’m an old, broken-down piece of meat, and I’m alone and I deserve to be alone. I just don’t want you to hate me"? This film doesn't seem to have learned the difference of show v. tell. It's got all the subtlety of being punctured by a staple gun.

That said, Rourke's charisma does carry you a pretty long way through this, and there are little moments -- at a deli counter, by the boardwalk, playing a twenty-year-old Nintendo wrestling game in which he appears -- that do get to you. So lower your expectations, and enjoy the Rourke.
WHEN YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT IT, "I HOPE SOMEDAY YOU'LL JOIN US AND THE WORLD WILL LIVE AS ONE" CAN TAKE ON A PRETTY OMINOUS TONE: "X of the year" is a weird and slippery concept, like "most valuable player." It could mean best X, most popular X, or most influential X. In the hands of a different blog, we might put our heads together and try to isolate the best music of the year, or the most popular among the best music, or the best among the most popular music. But this is not a different blog, and so I am hereby awarding the 2008 ALOTT5MA Song of the Year to David Archuleta's "Imagine."

But it is depressing where the original was hopeful, you may object. It is boring filler, pandering to the least common denominator. It is sung by the hollowest of human beings, a husk of a boy shriveling as his dreams of a day without obligations to prepubescent girls, postmenopausal cat lovers, and pedophiles drift away. Hey, I hear you. But it makes no difference.

By my count, Archuleta wheeled out his "Imagine" one hundred and seventeen times during the twelve episodes of last season's AI finals, give or take. In any event, he flogged that horse every chance he got. It sounded as if he took Lennon's sheet music as the merest suggestion without ever hearing the simple, straightforward original, or at least as if he were offended by Lennon's failure to pack in enough vocal runs to make the girls squeal. He gave it a comic emphasis:
no need for greed or hungerrrrrrr
Imagine all THE! peoplllllle …
Allow me this heresy, please: this was never that great a song to begin with. It is a bit obvious, right? Too on-the-nose? I mean, at some point people figured out that a good pop love song can't just whisper "I love you I love you" in reverent tones, so there has to be a better way of conveying "I want world peace" than saying "world peace, please." Yet if the original was a bit adolescent, a bit McCartneyesque, in presentation, at least it had content. Archuleta, however, manages to separate the words from their literal meaning, so that they are just a string of hummable syllables arranged in a melodic order intended to suggest not any kind of specific complaint (religion, commercialism, human imperfection) but rather a generic, abstract unease and a concomitant hope that by really caring about it it will go away. And by separating the words from their literal meaning, Archuleta doesn't alleviate the triteness; he amplifies it. Everything is stickier, slower, more dour, and, paradoxically, more conspicuously, facetiously earnest.

And that's the best thing about the song, the truly impressive part of it -- its lavish, epic cynicism. I've read a lot about Archuleta's quiet paring away of an important part of the song's thesis ("imagine there's no heaven … no religion too"), ostensibly because it's at odds with his own beliefs, but isn't it more likely that the verse was cut because it might offend significant portions of his fan base -- of the aforementioned prepubescent girls and postmenopausal cat lovers, if not the pedophiles? After all, we can't really take seriously the notion that Archuleta agrees with any part of the song at all. It takes a pair of giant, diamond-encrusted balls to sit through the Seacrest dramatic open, the giant spaceship and computerized metallic vocalist and montage of triumphant belters credits, the ads for iPods and talking-dog movies, the Ford skits, the Coke product placement, the SYTYCD and X-Factor cross-promotion, and a series of lectures by Simon Cowell about what will and won't mint money, and then submit, as one's stage-parent-certified entry in the competition for the right to a record contract, a featured spot on the national tour, and the official title of "Idol," the statement that we should "imagine no possessions." The fine print, if you will: No possessions other than David Archuleta CDs, mugs, sparkly pencils, sticker books, and t-shirts (with holes where the dead, dead eyes should be). One must be a special kind of genius, a kind of commercialist-savant, to pull this off and still come out the other end looking more like Benji than Billy Mack.

So what if Archuleta's "Imagine" was more industry than craft (the opposite of, say, my favorite pop song of the year, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's "Think I Wanna Die")? So what if he didn't beat that ecumenical music-lover and Daughtry tag-along David Cook? AI is just a battle, and when the key battle comes down to Cook vs. The Archuleta, Archuleta's side has already won the war. And it's muscular displays of mock-earnest sentiment like Archuleta's "Imagine" that prove it.
IT'S LIKE BEING IN VAUDEVILLE IN THE '60S! Our good friend Alan Sepinwall has an op-ed in today's NYT on the state of the television network, which concludes:
[T]he networks are Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff. So long as they pump their legs and assume there’s solid ground beneath their feet, they get to keep moving. But as soon as one of them gives up and looks at where it is, as NBC has with the Jay Leno deal, there’s nowhere to go but way, way down.
Still, one would hope that this is good news for television critics, who are more needed than ever in helping viewers sort out all the options which exist, multiplied not only by the number of channels creating quality tv but by the year-round cycle of introducing new programming. But as was noted to me earlier today, one still needs a viable media platform from which to speak such criticism, and with newspapers being in the shape that they are ...
SHORTER, BUT WEIGHING MORE, THAN ALLY MCBEAL: Even though Pushing Daisies is dead, and apparently can't be revived with a touch of a finger, Emmy nominee and Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth has already found new work--she'll be starring on Legally Mad, the new dramedy from David E. Kelley for NBC, where she'll play "Skippy Pylon, a cheerful and brilliant attorney who nonetheless exhibits flashes of psychosis -- and enjoys being mistaken for a teenager." I'm just disappointed we're not get my hoped for Kristin/NPH musical (1:55 here makes my case well).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I AM (PERHAPS NOT) LEGEND: It has been seven years (Ali) since Will Smith released a movie that did not gross over $130M. Tony Scott suggests that Seven Pounds might be different:
Near the end of “Seven Pounds” a carefully laminated piece of paper appears, on which someone has written, “DO NOT TOUCH THE JELLYFISH.” I wouldn’t dream of it, and I’ll take the message as a warning not to divulge the astonishing things that happen, not all of them involving aquatic creatures.

Frankly, though, I don’t see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw?

And I wish I could spell out just what that was, but you wouldn’t believe me, and the people at Sony might not invite me to any more screenings.
Ebert dissents:
Some people will find it emotionally manipulative. Some people like to be emotionally manipulated. I do, when it's done well.
Variety breaks the tie:
A movie that, like “The Sixth Sense,” depends entirely upon the payoff for its impact, “Seven Pounds” is an endlessly sentimental fable about sacrifice and redemption that aims only at the heart at the expense of the head. Intricately constructed so as to infuriate anyone predominantly guided by rationality and intellect, this reteaming of star Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino after their surprisingly effective “The Pursuit of Happyness” is off-putting for its manifest manipulations, as well as its pretentiousness and self-importance. All the same, the climax will be emotionally devastating for many viewers, perhaps particularly those with serious religious beliefs, meaning there’s a substantial audience out there for this profoundly peculiar drama, if word gets around.
So, folks, what movies are you looking forward to seeing this holiday season? My list starts with Milk, Slumdog Millionaire and, if it's still playing anywhere, Rachel Getting Married.

e.t.a. Bang bang! Mick Foley raves about The Wrestler: "[A] few people have suggested that I inspired that grisly wrestling scene. But I can claim with a clear conscience that I never used a staple gun on an opponent. Thumbtacks, yes; barbed wire, definitely; but never a staple gun."
I'M NOT PROGRAMMED TO RESPOND IN THAT AREA: Majel Roddenberry, a major fixture in the Star Trek universe and widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, has died.
PAGING JOHNNY DRAMA: Yes, Entourage tells us that Marty Scorsese is working on a contemporary version of The Great Gatsby, but Nikki Finke is reporting that Baz Luhrmann will follow up Australia with his own version of the Fitzgerald classic and invites your casting suggestions there. Respond here as well.
STAY TUNED FOR AN ALOTT5MA LIST OF SCHOOL CLOSURES: I know it's been cold and snowy in the Northeast, but now we're getting snow in places where it's downright strange. An unusual volume in Seattle, an inch or so on the Strip in Vegas, and even enough in Berkeley the other day for a guy to pretend to cross-country ski for the cameras in Tilden Park (you almost want the snowline to have been a little bit lower just to see if a kid on a tobaggan could break the sound barrier coming down Marin Avenue). When I was a kid in upstate New York I had my share of four-foot blizzards (and the attendant task of digging out the driveway, one made Sisyphean by the plows that would then push all the street snow right back onto your cleared and salted pavement), but my favorite snowstorm was one I heard about only in letters (remember those?) and hushed retellings. In Seattle in 1989 or 1990, after the weatherman predicted a light dusting, a freak storm dropped two or three feet in just a couple of hours. It surprised and paralyzed the city. One woman with whom I worked said it took her 10 hours to get home. People abandoned their cars (and their Metro buses) on the freeway. I think they made a Jake Gyllenhall movie about it.

Any good snowed-in stories out there?
LOCAL TOP CHEF WATCHING HAS BEEN DELAYED: General Top Chef commentating, however, may begin immediately.
DIRECT FROM THE HOSER HUT: EW's annual "best/worst" issue arrives on newsstands and in mailboxes later this week, but bits are already up (seriously? "Love In This Club" is the best single of the year?), including the cast of HIMYM emulating major pop culture moments of the year (featuring NPH as Michael Phelps, Josh Radnor as Mr. Big, and Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel as Sarah Palin and Joe Biden).
HUG IT OUT OF A JOB: Despite good reviews, Jeremy Piven has left the Broadway production of David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow, due to "a high level of mercury." (The article hints that perhaps "mercury" was not the real reason for his abrupt departure.) More interesting is that Broadway fave Norbert Leo Butz (Wicked, Thou Shalt Not, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Is He Dead?) will be replacing Piven in the production on an interim basis.

ETA: Butz will replace Piven for performances from December 23 through January 11. William H. Macy takes over January 13 through the run's end in February. Barring a ruling from the Tony committee, neither Butz nor Macy will be eligible for awards, which are reserved for opening night performers absent special permission.
FROM THE ALOTT5MA READER REQUESTS DIVISION: Since you asked for this space, please let us know what shows y'all are watching that we never talk about here, so you can form a support group for each other and/or encourage us to actually watch these shows ...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

YouTube - The Price is Right exact showcase bid

KEN JENNINGS WAS NEVER THIS PERFECT: Actual retail price of your showcase is ... well, this guy yesterday proved the show's title to be true for the first time in 30+ years, and Drew Carey has no idea how to react.
I'D MAKE ROOM FOR YOU, I'D SAIL SHIPS FOR YOU: We don't always award an ALOTT5MA Award for Unrequited Crush of the Year, but 2008 was a special year indeed. He was covering the American Idol beat for the LA Times and she, of course was "the greatest performer in 'Idol' history." And I might have forgotten about it, except that Richard Rushfield wrote Carly Smithson again today, God bless him:
"American Idol," for all the fame it bestows, can be a marketing handicap. A surprising number of former contestants face the question, "What kind of artist are you?" This is certainly the case for Smithson, whose powerful vocal skills broke through the clutter in Season 7 but whose pop/rocker style was difficult to express around the songs of Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton and Broadway musicals. ...

In the studio, two songs seem to be the full expression of the power she only hinted at on "Idol" -- an intense ballad titled "Lie With Me" and "Let Me Fall," a blazing power-rock anthem. The songs seem very personal (although she insists they are not taken from her life), about relationship anguish and tormented love.
Oh, the memories. Rather than going back to his legendary elegy for Ms. Smithson's Idol run ("Shock, grief, anger, betrayal. These were the feelings that swept through the Idoldome after the stunning dismissal of Carly Smithson...."), let's instead highlight what he wrote the following week:
The Idoldome was a colder, emptier place Tuesday night than it had been a mere week ago, when the most electrifying singer in "American Idol" history, Carly Smithson, still walked among us. In the life of every "Idol" partisan, sooner or later this day must come when one must look defeat dead in the eye and search for new reasons to keep faith in the system.

In the end, democracy cannot be just a way to force one’s own candidate into office; the means must be more important than our individual ends and, bitter though it may be, the will of the electorate must be embraced. Were it not for American Idol, one must recall, we would have never known Carly Smithson at all. However, taking my seat in the Carly-less Idoldome, I recounted the words of the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert in his Elegy of Fortinbras, when he wrote, putting words in the mouth of Hamlet’s sole survivor ...
You get the idea. Rushfield may not get the girl, but darn it, he gets the ALOTT5MA Award. (Perennial runners-up: Peter King on Brett Favre, Jim DeRogatis on Billy Corgan.)
[SPACEMAN'S HEAD EXPLODES]: If you were wondering who would win the ALOTT5MA award for the Year's Shittiest Supposed News Source, and you were thinking you would lay some money on TMZ/Us/InTouch, or the Montclarion, or the (now three-days-a-week if you like it on your doorstep) Detroit Free Press, or Sam Zell's profitably smouldering but unkillable twins, or the Captivate Network, or Woman on Cell Phone at Bus Stop Loudly Misinterpreting the Day's Headlines, Vegas is no longer taking bets.

That's because we have a last-minute, come-from-behind, runaway winner: Oklahoma Today, which just named lying scumbag Clay Bennett its seventeenth "Oklahoman of the Year," and not in a Time Magazine "isn't this such a controversial choice" way, but rather in a "we think this guy ably represents all that is good about Oklahoma" way. I guess one person's "resourcefulness, tenacity, and acumen" is another person's "lying, cronyism, and ability to turn a 52-win division champion into the worst team in the NBA (on pace to tie the worst record in league history) in only three years, eliciting boos in only a few weeks from a crowd that never booed the Hornets." Apparently, for the editorial staff of Oklahoma Today (and not for an Oklahoman or two among us who I know will dissent from the choice), Oklahoma is a state of proud douchebag buffoons. Hey, just like in the old cartoons!

ETA: Speaking of terrible news decisions, the top headline on CNN for an hour or so this morning was "No Good Way To Tell Kids They Have Cancer." Breaking!
RACE OF CAKES: Combining a few of our favorite topics around here--namely culinary pursuits and odd child names--is this tale of how the ShopRite grocery store in Greenwich Township, N.J., refused to decorate a birthday cake for three-year-old Adolph Hitler Campbell, forcing the Campbells, whose two other children are named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie, to get their cake from a local Wal-Mart.

Some choice nuggets that are perhaps lost in the story:
  • The Campbells said they wanted their children to have unique names and didn't expect the names to cause problems. Despite the cake refusal, the Campbells said they don't expect the names to cause problems later, such as when the children start school
  • Disabilities, the couple says, have left both out of work: [35-year-old] Heath Campbell can't landscape or pump gas because he has emphysema, and [25-year-old] Deborah can't waitress because she has a bad back. They live on Social Security payments.
  • There are swastikas on walls, on jackets, on the freezer and on a pillow. The family car had swastikas, Heath Campbell said, until New Jersey's Department of Children and Families told him they could endanger the children. The swastikas, Heath Campbell said, are symbols of peace and balance. He considers them art.
  • A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said the store won't put anything illegal or profane on a cake but thinks it's important to respect the views of customers and employees. "Our No. 1 priority in decorating cakes is to serve the customer to the best of our ability," Anna Taylor, the spokeswoman, said from Bentonville, Ark.
SADLY, "YOU" DID NOT APPEAR ON THE BALLOT:In decidedly unshocking news, Time's Person of the Year is Barack Obama. Runners-up were Henry Paulson, Nicolas Sarkozy, Sarah Palin, and Zhang Yimou. For pop culture, you have to go into the third tier--"People Who Mattered"--where Robert Downey, Jr., Tina Fey, and Stephenie Meyer make appearances.
SPEIDI? I've alluded to this before, but the 2008 ALOTT5MA Award for Cultural Phenomenon That I Should Probably Know More About, But Just Haven't Bothered To Figure Out goes to The Hills.

Runners-up: Fall Out Boy, Lil Wayne, "CSI: [Any]".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First Face Transplant Performed in the U.S. -

FACE/ON: Within a few years, our favorite Travolta/Cage flick will seem eerily prescient, as American doctors have successfully completed their first face transplant, the fourth in world history. No word on how many doves were present.

[This, I hadn't thought about before: "Critics have also raised ethical concerns, among them how to protect the identity of the donor of the facial tissue."]
THIS IS THE SECOND NOTICE: This is the second notice [the n+1th second notice, where n = the number of times we have left this exact same message on your office phone, cell phone, and wife's phone] that the factory warranty for your vehicle [we don't know what vehicle you own, or if you own a vehicle, or if you're old enough to drive, or if you're old enough to pedal a bicycle, or if you live in a country where people of your sex are allowed to use vehicles] is about to expire [where "about" is less than or equal to the entire warranty life of your vehicle]. If you would like to extend your warranty, you must call us [calling us will not result in any extension of any warranty] at [number, where you may be asked to leave your social security and credit card numbers while also providing confirmation that this number is a live line that we may aggregate on a list of non-do-not-call numbers for sale to telemarketers who can then call you at work or while you're driving].
SLURISPRUDENCE: Jewish hipster magazine Heeb suffered a setback at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week, with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirming the office's argument that the name can be refused registration for being "disparaging." Those hoping for coherence in this jurisprudence, with its mixed results (DYKES ON BIKES, not disparaging; ethnic slur for African-Americans, disparaging; WASHINGTON REDSKINS, still up in the air and substantive issue not decided) will have to continue to wait.
DON'T MAKE A HUGE MISTAKE: If you're still looking for Chrismukkah presents, it's our duty to note that Arrested Development: The Complete Series is today's Amazon Gold Box deal, giving you all three seasons for $28.99 or 54 cents an episode--that's shipped to your door (or some other door, if you prefer) by no later than December 24. It's worth every penny of that. Feel free to use this thread for AD quotes and/or clips or to provide your own submissions to the ALOTT5MA Holiday Gift Guide.

Monday, December 15, 2008

JUST ONE LAST THING: It's being reported that Peter Falk is suffering from Alzheimer's. If just for Columbo, he'd be an icon, but his pitch perfect performance as the narrator in The Princess Bride cements his position as a legend. That final scene gets me every time.
WHEN I WENT TO SCHOOL ... IN OLYMPIA ... Given recent controversies, there will be no Festivus pole on Washington's state capitol grounds this year. Alert the Summum, as they know how to air this grievance.
SABERKITTENS DEMAND BAILOUT: Having once watched three minutes of a San Jose Sabercats game on TV36, I'm devastated: Arena Football is canceling the 2009 Season.
I THINK STILL YOUR PROBLEM IS THAT YOU'RE FORGETTABLE: As we have since 2003, we open the ALOTT5MA Award season with the award for Reality TV Host/Judge of the Year. These awards are intended to recognize notable achievements in the year of pop culture and society, for better or worse, and are doled out based on whim and caprice.

[Yes, we recognize that the Emmys have finally caught up to us in honoring this category.]

Past winners in this category include Robert K. Oermann of Nashville Star (2003), Ralph Garman (as Derek Newcastle) for Joe Schmo 2 (2004), Project Runway's Tim Gunn (2005), Tyra Banks for America's Next Top Model (2006), and Anthony Bourdain for Top Chef (2007).

It took me a while to figure out this year's winner, because there wasn't much new talent to evaluate -- what, I'm going to give this to Anne Slowey? But then it hit me, and it all made sense.

Because I've never given this award to Simon Cowell, yet without him this category might not even exist. C'mon.

This year, Cowell did nothing controversial, but that's the mark of his success: his judging criteria has become so well-elaborated and is so consistent and persuasive that viewers have generally incorporated it as their own. He's no longer America's Most Hated Judge; he's really the most trusted at this point. By and large, folks have rejected Paula's it's great that everyone's trying really hard babble and instead like judges who judge. And judge he did this season.
On CtCM, "I Shot The Sheriff": “Jason, stand back. That was utterly atrocious. That is a song you do not touch. The arrangement was atrocious, the performing and the singing was as bad as I ever heard. That was like a first round audition massacre. I don’t know what you were thinking.”

On Kristy Lee Cook, "God Bless The USA": “That was the most clever song choice I’ve heard in years.”

On CtCM, "Memory": "Jason it felt to me, and I'm sure to you, like the longest two minutes of your life, right? The reality was it came over as a young guy being forced by your mom and dad to sing a song at a wedding you didn't want to sing. It did, it did. You were miserable throughout, I was partly miserable throughout, it's not your style of music."

On YDA, "Another Day in Paradise": "You're becoming... like it's all getting a little bit gloomy here. You haven't got to keep singing sad songs. We had 'Imagine' last week, 'Another Day in Paradise' this week... I just think you've got to lighten up a little David. There's no question you're going to make it through to the finals next week. Probably going to be in the Final 2. But I think now we've got to say a slightly different more fun side occasionally, otherwise it might get a bit depressing."
Look, I could find plenty, you can find plenty. Cowell's harsh when it's deserved, but it makes his praise meaningful. Remember David Cook's cover of (Chris Cornell's cover of) "Billie Jean"? Here's what Cowell said: "David, that was brave. I mean, it could have either been insane or amazing, and I have to tell you, it was amazing."

And then there's the nuance. Michael Johns was eliminated from the show for a performance of "Dream On" that most of us liked. Here's what Simon said, though: "Michael look, I thought it was a very good performance. Why I'm slightly with Randy on this though is I don't like it when you do an impersonation of a rock star. I prefer it more with the kind of blues, R&B thing in your voice -- which we heard last week. So while I wasn't jumping out of my seat, I thought it was a little bit wannabe-ish."

He was right, and Johns went home. Cowell's judging is entertaining in and of itself, and when America listens to him (and we usually do), it makes for a better group of competitors overall. Justice delayed is not justice denied here, but it's about damn time that Simon Cowell won this award already. Done.
SO IF YOU BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS, CHILDREN, LIKE YOUR UNCLE BILLY DOES, THEN BUY THIS FESTERING TURD OF A RECORD: The Telegraph (UK) handicaps this year's field for the Christmas number one song, with the overwhelming favorite apparently being this cover of "Hallelujah" by Alexandra Burke, who just won X-Factor over there, even though (as Jen notes) she seems to have no idea what the song is about. (We're still pulling for "Fairytale of New York," though we're not opposed to the Rick Astley push.)

(See, also, Burke w/Beyonce, "Listen"; "On The Radio"; but thank your lucky stars we don't see production numbers like this on Idol.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

REALLY? Amy Poehler really said her goodbye to SNL last night. Really. May she be rockin' both her legs long into the future.

update: Gov. David Paterson's office was not amused by his portrayal.
THE AYATOLLAH OF ROCK AND ROLLA: Apparently, the Iranian press is unhappy that the villain in Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler is a wrestler known as Ayatollah. What the hell was Voice of America doing all these years that they did not make the Iranian people aware of the success of the Iron Sheik?
BONJOUR! THIS IS THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. I FIRST MET MONSIEUR FRANKLIN ... : Philadelphia's beloved (and low-tech) underground Franklin Court museum, with its sliding diorama show and bank of rotary phones to dial friends of Franklin's for their reminiscences, is in serious need of money (and allegedly, a technological upgrade for the kids these days.)